Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

Mind Over Natter

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Sunday, December 18, 2011 by

Tanja Cilia

I often have cause to complain about pathetic presentations on local television – when it comes to attitude, programme content, and even delivery. On my list of bugbears are presenters who saunter about the studio with hands in pockets; others who invade guests’ personal space or who seat themselves higher than their panel to set the pecking order.

What really annoys me is that sometimes, even people who do not have a hearing impairment cannot always make out what is being said on television. I have often asked producers and presenters to keep interviews clean – that is, to avoid using background music.

The same applies to voice-overs, when the foreign language that has been dubbed into one we can understand, is often much louder than it ought to be… perhaps so we can check that the translation is faithful to the original.

It seem the problem applies not only to Malta. Two studies, jointly planned and run in tandem indicated that 71 per cent of adults in the UK find some of the speech on television unintelligible. One study was co-funded by Danish hearing aid manufacturer Widex and Channel 4; the second was carried out by the BBC. It is not only people with hearing impairments and/or hearing aids users who have these problems.

The Beeb has now launched an industry-wide training initiative through its academy, to be used also in various educational institutions. I wonder whether this course could be used as part of local media education lectures – although, of course, there will always be those who assume they are ‘naturals’ and do not need any sort of training.

At the opposite end of the scale, in a manner of speaking, is the recent ruling by the American Federal Communications Commission, set to limit the high volume of adverts that have people reaching for the remote control, or buying equipment that stops the spiking.

Since adverts are meant to grab the public’s attention, it is obvious that they will be louder than the programme in which they appear. Yet this is especially irritating when the volume fluctuates between one advert and another.

This ruling will finally implement the 2010 Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (Calm), which requires adverts to have the same average volume as the programmes they appear in.

• Last month, PBS chairman Joseph Mizzi met Gu Hongxing, director of the China Cultural Centre in Malta, to discuss ways of further increasing co-operation between the two entities. Gu specifically mentioned the coverage given to ‘Happy Chinese New Year’, the Summer Film Festival, World Tai Chi Day, and the recent piano recital by Bao Huiqiao at Verdala Palace.

Mizzi said the China Cultural Centre was one of the most active foreign cultural institutes in Malta. The projected audio-visual broadcasting platform would enable additional coverage of cultural events, he added.

One hopes that this type of agreement will be brokered also with other countries with which we have diplomatic relations, and/or those that have cultural centres locally.

• Every so often, Lou Bondi decides to give us a breath of fresh air rather than political claptrap in which he preaches to the choir.

Oliver Friggieri, easily deserving of the title ‘Contemporary author in a class of his own’, is a fascinating person. Behind that misleadingly deadpan visage is a brilliant mind capable of creating masterpieces such as It-Tfal Jiġu bil-Vapuri, La Jibbnazza Niġi Lura, and Dik id-Dgħajsa f’nofs il-Port.

It is almost extraneous to say that Friggieri is a lecturer of literature at the University, as well as being the author of many books, of which a good number have been published in foreign countries.

Each novel stands alone, but is yet connected with the other two. In fact, Hekk Tħabbat il-Qalb Maltija, recently published by Klabb Kotba Maltin, is a hardbound compilation of the aforementioned trilogy, of more than 700 pages.

Friggieri insists that well before colonisation, independence, and republic status, Malta was a country, a state, and a nation. The ‘true tale’ portrays life in Malta in the early decades of the last century, and is set mostly in the Grand Harbour area and a backwoods village.

Inevitably, the contact with the incoming naval fleet, foreign interference, religious conflicts and social strife make for clashes within the hitherto closed extended family of Susanna. When she bears a child (Wistin) to Stiefnu out of wedlock, Dun Grejbel is the innocent pawn.

Friggieri insisted with Bondi that the past and the future (my interpretation) are like two obverse sides of a coin that has no reverse side.

“The best way to discover the present is to unearth the mysteries of the past.” For all that, the perennial conflict between tradition and modernism in contemporary Malta obtains yet today. At times it seemed that he did not even heed Bondi’s verbal pyrotechnics – but at other times he parried them expertly.

• I am always interested to see how the foreign press depicts Malta. I recently came upon a clip ( http://urplay.se/164836 ) that contains, inter alia, a tour of Mdina. Other clips (http://urplay.se/150899) and (http://urplay.se/144635) were disappointing. The child commentators were speaking off-the-cuff, since this appeared to be the praxis of the series. At times they appeared to be thinking aloud – obviously their brief was to ‘act naturally’. Some comments were very puerile.

• Quote of the week is the headline-cum-epitaph to US TV personality Ed McMahon, best known as Johnny Carson’s late-night associate. When it came to being the Number Two man, he was Number One. Would that anyone who tries to hog the limelight took these words to heart…




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Tanja Cilia

Freelance Writer

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